HAY HOUSE CONFERENCE IN NYC

I attended the Hay House “I Can Do It” conference in NYC this weekend.  It was just the shot in the arm I needed to get me back to this blog.

Wayne Dyer, one of my most influential mentors, was one of the keynote speakers.  If you aren’t familiar with the body of his work, run to the nearest book store and buy his first book, “Your Erroneous Zones”, and start with this little morsel when you have about an hour. You’ll be hooked:

I Can Do It

Wayne had a guest speaker join him for a few minutes toward the end of his three-hour seminar.  Scarlett Lewis took the stage.  She is the mother of little 6-year-old Jessie Lewis, a fatal victim of the unspeakably tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left 20 children and 6 adults dead on December 14, 2012.

As a former teacher and school administrator, this incident had rocked my world and left me reeling with sadness for many days and weeks that followed.  While the media focused on the overwhelmed families and the community and the rage of the killer, Adam Lanzar, all I could think about was who was this boy and why had this happened.  Who were the potential Adam Lanzas that I had known over my 33 years in public education. Which of the disenfranchised, disturbed, dysfunctional children who had been harassed, isolated and bullied could have done what Adam Lanza did?  I racked my memory to think, could one of my students have done this?  I have known thousands of students, but only a very few, three to be exact, kept resurfacing in my mind.  I wondered what had happened to these three boys once they had graduated.  At least when they were in school, we knew where they were, we gave them services, we tried to help them.  But what happens to them when they leave?  Who is taking care of them, talking to them, helping them sort out their rage, overcome their isolation?  I stopped dead in my tracks, because the only answer I could come up with was, NO ONE.  Probably no one was there for these 3 boys who were now young men. Maybe their mothers, but what could a mother do?  I am haunted by what Mrs. Lanza’s last thoughts were when her son Adam shot her.

As I sat in the audience yesterday, I was reminded of the day, when I was a middle school assistant principal on September 11, 2001 in a suburb just north of NYC.  We had to tell the students what had happened at the Twin Towers, run counseling workshops, comfort frightened staff and students, and then make sure that each student had been picked up by someone. So many of their parents worked in the city and would not be able to get home because the bridges and tunnels had been shut down. The last student was picked up by an aunt at 6:15 that evening, and I left the school a ghost town.

I also lived in the city and couldn’t get home so I stayed at the home of the school psychologist that night.  When I got to her house, she poured me a glass of wine and told me to go into the yard and just lie in the hammock.  After 9 hours, I finally let myself fall apart.  I cried uncontrollably for about 10 minutes and then a calm came over me.  Elizabeth, I guess, had been watching from the window, and when I got calm, she came out and joined me.

“You know this has got to change everything, now,” I declared.

“Yes?,” she asked dubiously.

“This has got to be the beginning of world peace.  There’s no other road to take.  This has got to wake up the world.  The madness has to stop!” I protested.

And I really believed it!  I believed this singular event would be the wake up call we as a nation needed to set a new paradigm in order. We would be the catalyst that opened a new conversation.  We would lead the way.

Well, we saw how that worked out.

So to hear Scarlett Lewis’ message of love and survival, the message that we must choose love instead of anger, fear or hatred, so resonated with me. Scarlett is a brave and strong woman and she is willing to lead the way.  As the Dali Lama believes, if we would just teach 8 year olds how to meditate on compassion for only one hour a week, we could change the world in just one generation.  Why aren’t we doing this!!!!  Why is it that we must wait for a tragedy to occur and then send in the triage team?

So I’m putting it right out here, right now.  I’m going to make this my mission! I am going to work toward providing compassion curricula to schools and to finding a way to change the hate to love.  I’m going to work to shift the paradigm.  Let me know if you want to be a part of this.  There will be much more to come.

You can start by supporting Scarlett Lewis’ foundation by visiting http://www.jesselewischooselove.org/

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The Deadening Of America

Seven  million people in America commonly abuse prescription drugs, according to the National Institute On Drug Abuse.  These people are either taking prescription drugs that were not prescribed for them by a doctor, or they are over medicating themselves with the drugs that have been prescribed.  Not surprisingly, the most commonly abused drugs are pain relievers, antidepressants, and stimulants.

Those are just the statistics for people who are abusing Rx drugs.  What about all the other users, not abusers.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  (CDC) recently reported that antidepressant use in the United States has increased nearly 400 percent in the last two decades, making antidepressants the most frequently used class of medications by Americans ages 18-44. Among Americans 12 years and older, 11 percent were taking antidepressants by 2005-2008 (the most recently reported study period), and 23 percent of women ages 40–59 years were taking them.

Americans are taking these drugs because they:

  • can’t sleep through the night
  • can’t get going in the morning
  • are anxious
  • are nervous
  • are tired
  • are depressed
  • are angry
  • are sad
  • are lonely
  • feel empty
  • feel hopeless

Much has been written about what is happening in American culture that has brought us to this state.  We lead frenzied, high stress lives, we live in a violent culture, we are subject to random acts of terrorism,  there is the 24-7 media blitz of bad news, the family unit has crumbled, these are hard economic times, pharmaceutical companies have sold a bill of goods to the doctors and they are over medicating American, the list goes on and on.

I acknowledge that there are some people who have a true chemical imbalance and the use of prescription drugs with this population can make an enormous difference in their lives.  But I believe they are a small percentage of the population.  In my own experience as an educator, I watched the meteoric rise of ADHD diagnoses in young children accompanied by prescription drugs to control them.  It was easier to pop a pill than to deal with an “unruly” child. Just as it’s easier to pop a pill than to determine what it is you’re really afraid of, what you are so angry about, why you can’t focus on your work, why you are so sad, lonely, hopeless.  Yes it might be easier to pop a pill, but at what cost?

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There are consequences not only to our brains and other organs but there are also consequences of the spirit.  Here’s the thing you may not know or no one told you.

Life is a struggle. 

Suffering is part of the human condition. 

We are meant to struggle.

There is no culture on earth which does not have a central figure who struggles and overcomes.  Think of the book of Job.  In the Old Testament Job is a righteous man of the chosen people, and he has enjoyed great prosperity, until the day it all turns bad.  Things go from bad to worse as he is tested by Satan to denounce God.  But Job is steadfast in his love of God and finally he is redeemed.

Similarly, Buddha was born a prince, named Siddhartha.  His parents tried to shelter him from witnessing pain, suffering and death to avoid a prophet’s warning that if Siddhartha witnessed suffering, he would want to become a wandering aesthetic. His father wanted him to grow up to be king.  But of course, eventually he saw suffering, and did leave the palace to wander as an aesthetic.  He spent many years wandering and suffered great hardships, before he finally attained enlightenment and became Buddha.

The New Testament is the ultimate story of suffering.  Christ suffers and dies for our salvation.  These are but a few examples that beg the question, which is repeated in every culture, “Why do the righteous suffer?”

If you do not struggle, do not have pain, do not know sadness, do not feel alone, then you cannot fully understand it’s opposite.  Without sadness, there is no joy.  That is the law of duality that governs our universe.  There is good and evil, hot and cold, strong and weak, yin and yang, high and low, male and female, sick and well.  You must experience it all if you are to experience this human condition.  We are all of it.

Here’s an example of duality.  It may be a frigid day and your house or apartment feels a little chilly.  But you get going and bundle up to go outside.  It’s frigid, and the cold rips right through you.  After some time, you return home.  You open the door to the warmth of your home.  You feel that warmth so much more intensely because of the experience of the cold.

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Embrace adversity.  Always ask, “Why is this in my life.?  What am I to learn from this?”  You will stop seeing yourself as a victim of circumstances beyond your control, and begin to understand that you can be the creator of your reality.

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GET TO 80 IF YOU CAN (Maya Angelou)

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“Cougar – The Musical” – is a very funny off-broadway show about three women “over forty” who are looking for love.  I went with 2 baby boomer women friends, and as you can imagine it was campy and fun, and we laughed til we cried. But at its core this show is a very poignant look at love, loss, aging, wisdom and self-awareness, as these three women evolve.

We “boomers” are in a wonderful stage of our lives. Every decade you have lived is a blessing.  We’ve all lost people who died young.  So be grateful. When Maya Angelou was asked about her life recently, she reflected briefly on her 20s, 30s, 60s, 70s, and when she got to her 80s (she is now 85) she said, “Oh yes, your 80s.  Get there if you can.” (Her new book, “Mom, Me and Mom.”)

It’s the journey that counts.  The “organ recital” of complaints, my heart, my liver, my joints, my back, my … may all be true but is it your only truth?  Are your ailments bigger than you, more than you? Do you struggle with them, and are you losing the battle?

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Take a moment to reflect on what you are learning from aging?  Remember that aging is like a mighty oak tree, which needed both sunshine and rain to make it grow. We need both love and suffering in this life to grow.  So when life sends you suffering, drink it into your roots, and allow it to make you stronger, wiser, and more beautiful.

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You may want to reflect on some or all of these questions and write your responses in your journal:

  1. What is a most important life lesson you have learned in the last 5 years that you did not know as a younger person? Has knowing it had a positive or negative effect on you?
  2. Is this a lesson that an elder tried to teach you, or something you discovered yourself? How/ why did you come to own it?
  3. What falsehood has exposed itself to you, as you have gained age and wisdom? What made you shed that belief? Has this had a positive or negative effect on you?
  4. How has change served you in your life?  Do you embrace or resist change?  Why? Why not?
  5. What are your fears about aging,  and what actions do you take to counteract these fears?   (make a simple list- we will come back to it over the next few months)—-example  heart disease– stopped eating red meat, walk a mile a day, etc., Depression got a therapist, meditate, walk a mile, etc.
  6. You may also list  fears for which you do not have a counteraction.

You may also want to add visual images to your journal.  Draw pictures, cut out and paste images from magazines.  Just have fun with it.

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Why Are You In My Life?

Some relationships that you are engaged in are easy.  They have a natural flow, they bring you joy, your energy tends to be high or peaceful when you are in the presence of that person, you feel light.

Close your eyes for a few moments and just bring that person to your awareness.  Imagine you are in their presence right now.  How do you feel?  That is what it feels like when your heart is open.  Literally.

Some relationships are difficult.  When you are in the presence of that person or are thinking about him or her, you feel tight, your heart races, you obsess about the things that are said, you are irritated, your energy is upset, and you feel heavy.

Close your eyes for a few moments and just bring that person to your awareness.  Imagine you are in their presence right now.  How do you feel?  That is what it feels like when your heart is closed.  Literally.

In the ancient Hindu tradition, as well as other indigenous people, there is a metaphysical tradition of energy centers in our body as they relate to the universal life force energy.  In the Hindu tradition, these energy centers are called Chakras and there  are 7 major Chakras.   (Much more about this in later chapter on Chakras.) One of them is called the heart chakra.  You can imagine what it is the center of, right?

The heart chakra is concerned with relating unconditional love and compassion to others, yet it is not dependent on others.   This is the chakra that is associated with forgiveness and compassion, unconditional love through which we accept another for doing their best. By accepting others as they are, we develop true self-acceptance. By opening our heart chakra we recognize the powerful energy of “love.”

I know what you’re thinking.  How can I send unconditional love to someone who is causing me pain, aggravation, sorrow, sadness, fear, etc.?  That is the challenge of spirit.  There is good and bad in the universe, positive and negative energy, yin and yang, life and death.  There are many ways of expressing it, but it all comes down to this.  Deal with it. How you do that, is what this blog is all about.

Why is this person in my life is a question you can begin to unravel.  If it’s someone who brings you joy, well then you’re probably not struggling with that too much, so we’ll just leave it alone for now.  But if it is a difficult person, that’s something we can sink our teeth into.

Ask yourself these questions, which can be framed in the present or the past if the relationship you are thinking about is from your past.

Does this person perceive me as a positive or negative force in his/her life?

Do I contribute to the negative energy that exists between us?

Why is (was) this person in my life?

What am I meant to learn from him/her?

The first step to resolving difficult relationships is understanding them.  Be honest with yourself when you answer these questions.

You may want to begin keeping a spiritual journal at this point.  (More to come.) Just write down your thoughts about the questions above. If you’re inclined to draw, you might draw something in your journal about how you are feeling after this exercise.

I want to also give you a pleasure exercise to work on.  Come back to the person for whom your heart is open.  Sit opposite each other and just stare into each others eyes for a few minutes.  Babies and little children do this spontaneously because their heart chakra is so open.  You may remember doing this as a young person with your first love or with a trusted friend. (We called them staring contests, remember?) When you do this you will feel the energy force of your heart chakra opening.  It is inescapable and very distinct.

If you don’t have someone you can do this exercise with, try this instead.  Stare at yourself in a mirror.  Visualize your heart chakra opening.  You may use this image of the green heart. You cannot love another if you cannot love yourself.

imagesFor every person you meet, be it in a social situation or the cashier in a store, look into that person’s eyes and smile.  You will feel the same heart energy, I promise.

Eckhart Tolle- Opinions of Others is a Self Judgement